Anthony Njokuani knew what had happened the moment his right cross connected with the top of Rafael dos Anjos’ head in round one of their UFC Fuel 4 match on July 11, 2012.
“That’s when I heard the snap,” he told me by phone from Las Vegas, the day after he tweeted that his doctor had finally given him the go-ahead to fight again. It’s been more than six months since Njokuani suffered a metacarpal fracture with one off-target punch to dos Anjos’ head, six months since his decision to finish the fight in spite of the injury. Six months of healing time, six months of training without the use of his dominant hand.
But, surprisngly for someone who defines himself as a warrior, Njokuani says the time off didn’t mar his self-perception.
“I don’t think that way. I don't like to drive that into my mind, because once you do you’ll start feeling that way and you won’t focus hard on your training,” he says.
Instead, he surrounded himself with “positive people,” trainers who helped him keep any black thoughts at bay. "Without them, I would be thinking in that negative way," he says. “Right now my main thought is just going in there, just killing everything and coming out, you know, one of the best in UFC. That's my main thought: to go back in the cage and beat everyone who comes my way.”
The UFC lightweight also spent these six months helping others become fighters, teaching in the Dallas area at Mohler MMA and Saekson Muay Thai for a few weeks and cornering for his kid brother, Chidi "Chidi Bang Bang" Njokuani, during his November 2 TKO win over Phil Dace at Ressurection Fighting Alliance 4.
"Just watching all the people [at Mohler] just develop in the short period of time I was there teaching them go in there and win fights and becoming great fighters now, all of them thanking me for what I've taught them in a short period of time did put a lot of positive thoughts in my head," Njokuani says.
The Lagos, Nigeria-born/Garland, Texas-raised 32-year-old says he didn’t allow himself the luxury of regret. A more practical-minded man might have perhaps questioned the wisdom of continuing to fight for two more rounds after breaking his hand. And though Njokuani admits the severity of the injury was no doubt exacerbated by continuing to use the appendage, he says he didn't weigh the pros and cons or assess the risk of staying in the cage or even consider how one battle could potentially ruin the chances of ever having another. He doesn't think of his calling in such pragmatic terms.
“[Finishing the fight] did make it worse, but in my mind, I’m never going to give up the fight, no matter what," he says. "Even if it’s my ankle or my wrist, I’m still going to go out there and try to win the fight. I’m just not the kind of guy that’s going to give up on something like that, you know? I’m what you call a warrior. I’ve got it in my blood from being from Nigeria.”
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